Butterball turkey farms in two states are dealing with an outbreak of a highly contagious strain of avian bird flu. The company reports that only a “limited number” of turkeys have been diagnosed with H2N2 influenza in Arkansas and Missouri. More than 40,000 turkeys on one of the company’s contract farms will be put to death to help stop the flu from spreading.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the virus in a number of birds that are part of a “commercial flock of 40,020 turkeys” in Arkansas. Just three days prior to the confirmation of the avian flu in Arkansas, the disease was found in birds on a Butterball contract farm in Missouri. CBS notes that the same strain of the flu “wiped out a flock of 15,000 birds” in Minnesota last week.
The H5N8 strain is said to be similar to the one that originated in Asia.
“Our first concern is always the health and safety of the people who enjoy our products as well as the care and well-being of our turkeys.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Butterball is one of the largest U.S. turkey processors — the company, based in North Carolina, sells over one billion pounds of turkey a year and has processing plants across the Midwest.
The USDA states that there have been no reports of humans infected with the virus. The risk to humans is said to be low, but the strain is highly contagious and can be fatal to birds.
The spread of the disease is a big concern, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that there is the possibility that the H5N2 strain of the avian flu would “disrupt production in the heart of poultry country.”
— Henry L Niman PhD (@hniman) March 11, 2015
Not far from the Butterball contract farm in Arkansas is the headquarters for the second-largest turkey producer in the country — Tyson Foods. The company states that it currently has “biosecurity measures in place” at all of its contract farms to help prevent their birds from contracting the avian influenza.
The USDA tells the WSJ that the Butterball contract farms in Arkansas and Missouri have been quarantined, and the birds on the farms will all be killed. The extermination of the turkeys will reportedly help to prevent the virus from spreading further and will prevent “meat from infected animals entering the food supply chain.”